Flying in Pregnancy: What Every Woman Needs to Know!

| Posted On Jul 10, 2014 | By:

pregnancy and airline travelNow that it’s summertime, it’s also vacation time! But what if you are pregnant?! Will that bun in the oven prevent you from jet-setting around the world?  The good news is that, for most women, occasional travel is okay if you are experiencing a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy.  (However, if there is any question, please speak with your clinician.)

Here are some things you need to know to keep you and the baby safe:

Mind your dates

General guidelines advise that a pregnant woman can safely fly internationally until 34 weeks and domestically until 36 weeks; after that, the obvious fear is that you might go into labor while in the air!  And to be honest, travel of any kind (boat, land or air) can be very uncomfortable when you are full term.  Some airlines require a note granting you permission to fly after 36 weeks so be sure to ask your doctor or midwife well in advance of your departure date to avoid last-minute scrambling.

Respect any warning signs

Please do not board the plane if you are experiencing any pregnancy warning signs including but certainly not limited to vaginal bleeding, leaking of fluid, an acute dramatic decrease in your baby’s movement or any signs of labor. This should go without saying, but unfortunately, I have received calls from women on vacation who boarded the plane with signs of preterm labor and then called me (in Massachusetts) for my advice only after they arrived at their destination! Aye yie yie! In addition, if you begin to experience any pregnancy warning signs while traveling and need evaluation, it’s best to go to a hospital that has an in-house maternity unit to avoid the possibility of being transferred.

Plan ahead

Being prepared for any situation is a skill that you need for life as a new mom, so best to start cultivating it as soon as possible! Make sure you bring snacks in your carry-on bag to ward off nausea and hunger attacks. Consider getting an aisle seat to allow for easier access to the restroom and have hand sanitizer at the ready for any less-than-hygienic situations. If your legs are prone to aching and swelling, thigh-high maternity support stockings can provide some relief.  Also, make sure you allow plenty of extra time to compensate for your much slower pregnant waddle!

Pass on the full-body x-ray scan

Both the walk-through and hand-held metal detectors, which use a low-frequency electromagnetic field, are A-Okay. However, the full-body x-ray scanners (also called “backscatter machines”) do emit low-level radiation, although the amount is small.  The safety of these machines has been called into question, so best to avoid it if you are expecting.  The TSA readily allows you to opt for a fully-clothed “pat down” search by a female TSA agent instead.

Stay Hydrated

Low humidity in the cabin can lead to dehydration, which is a pregnant woman’s worst enemy! Dehydration can irritate the uterus making it more likely to cramp and contract. Drinking plenty of water and other non-caffeinated beverages can help keep you and your uterus comfortable and happy!

Keep those legs moving

If you are following tip #5, chances are you will be making frequent trips to the bathroom, which is a perfect time to stretch your legs and take a few walks up and down the aisle. While you are sitting in your seat, you can also perform simple leg exercises during your waking hours to keep your blood pumping.  These help to prevent rare but serious blood clots called “DVTs.”  Raising your heels, circling your ankles, and pointing/flexing your toes are some exercises you can try.

Enjoy yourself!

This trip might be the last time you get to take an adults-only vacation for a long, long time. So kick back, grab a mocktail and enjoy your “babymoon.”  You deserve it!

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